In the latest in its Facebook exposé, The Wall Street Journal found that the company became well aware that anti-vaxxers were attacking pages designed to promote COVID-19 vaccinations—and they were using the platform’s tools to do it. Company researchers found that vaccine-related posts, some by groups like the World Health Organization, had their comments overrun with anti-vaccine attacks, with some diving into the most extreme conspiracy theories. The pages soon became “cesspools of anti-vaccine comments,” they wrote. “That’s a huge problem and we need to fix it.” Researchers said the attacks were seen by users 775 million times a day.
Facebook spokesman Aaron Simpson said the documents depicted its “routine process for dealing with difficult challenges.” “We’re focused on outcomes, and the data shows that for people in the U.S. on Facebook, vaccine hesitancy has declined by about 50% since January, and acceptance is high,” he said. “Narrowly characterizing leaked documents doesn’t accurately represent the problem, and it also ignores the work that’s been underway to make comments on posts about COVID-19 and vaccines safer and more reliable.”